Acting, The New Conversation: Required Reading

As an entrepreneur-minded writer and producer, I’m keenly interested in the evolving DIY system of open information sharing, grassroots appeal, bootstrap’ing sweat equity, and Think Outside The Box Office-ing of independent cinema. These factors drive the indie scene much as the Hebrews circled Jericho, finding the right trumpet pitch to bring the studio walls a-tumblin’ down.

If you’re involved in this scene, you’ve debated in these conversations about self distribution, finding your audience, and whether Kevin Smith represents a replicable business model or if he’s just a stunt-pulling one-off in an XXXL bathrobe.

I want to bring these conversations to Acting:

It’s really tough. Acting is a strange blend of service industry and cult of personality. It can make or break films, especially if there is a “name” involved. It also is one of the few lines of business in the film world that can acquire greater scarcity and therefore greater value as it matures.

People tend to either fling me rote advice that works in the studio way of doing things (“Get an agent, and then get a better agent!”) or champion new advice that is an interesting part of the new conversation, but doesn’t have demonstrable traction yet (“Get a website and lots of Twitter followers!”) That might be the start of the conversation, but it’s not the answer.

Filmmakers are doing things differently, self publishing book authors are doing things differently, the industry is shifting to a more open, online, and on-demand reality. How does this apply to Acting? Well, that’s what I want to converse about, because it’s frustrating to be told to keep following old paradigms in hopes of success, when there are obviously new methods evolving that Actors might learn from.

A few caveats before we begin:

1) I see Actors as members of an entrepreneurial Creative class, responsible for their career and passionate about it, the same as a director or an author.
2) It’s common to label Actors as hired contributors rather than creators, until their careers reach a sustainable level. However, consider that when Actors’ careers do find traction, they have the power to bring a film the credibility it desperately needs, or even greenlight a film to be financed. Thus, the idea that actors are a dime a dozen on Craigslist may be true, but only up to a crucial turning point. It is this possibility of a conversion that needs to be taken into the equation rather than waved aside.
3) This post does not take “oh my roommate took an improv class last year and can act” nor “I just cast my friends” as a viable part of the new conversation. The Actor we are talking about in this series is hard working, ever learning, and talented, but hasn’t hit their break yet.

Originally, I conceived this as a couple of bullet points but realized I had a lot more to say. I broke this post up into several parts. Part I kicks off with Required Reading. These articles have been under my skin and in my subconscious, forming the baseline of this new conversation:

Felicia Day: Mogul in the Making

Sheri Candler’s 10 Tips for Your Film (That I encourage you to think about in terms of your acting career)

Advice on Launching an Independent Career

Sitting down with Bellflower’s Evan Glodell

The $9,000 Rebel Problem Solver

Yes, few of these are aimed at actors. Instead, they are designed to get you thinking about your acting career in more holistic terms, as a creative entrepreneur leveraging your unique skills in a glutted marketplace to create sustainable value.

Man, I sound old.

But basically, it comes down to this imperative: Start creating instead of waiting.

NEXT POST: Who’s your audience?

Posted on September 13, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Thank you, Wonder, for bringing all of this out into the open. It’s such a relief to know that I’m not the only one rebelling against the old school “jump through the hoops and MAYBE you’ll get chosen” methods of breaking into the business. Not only do those methods tend to not work, they are very dis-empowering.

    I’ve recently started working on a solo creative project myself. The goal is not to break into the business but to be creative, to learn and grow, and do actually do what I want to do, without regard to whether anyone is giving me the opportunity. As the project, and I, grow, so will my opportunities. And if they don’t? Well then I had a good time being creative and really that is the goal.

    Thanks for being a beacon and shining some sense on the situation!



  2. You are a great writer. 🙂

  3. Nice piece. I think the directors who are looking at self-distribution models etc go hand in hand with the actor. I’ve always been a writer but I’ve also acted. So I wrote a piece for myself to act in, got the equipment etc. Then realized I am not capable of simultaneously acting and directing. Some can. I can’t.
    All of this is to say that I’ve shot five shorts and work within a very small community of actors I trust. All different genres. My latest being a horror short that we are distributing online for .99. The Best Horror for Under a Dollar.
    And we are all moving up the chain. Find a similar group. Or start one.

  4. I started an experiment a few years ago: STOP AUDITIONING. I don’t care about it, most of those roles are uninteresting, and it’s not why I’m an artist. I’ve always preferred to make my own art and not just act in someone else’s stories (unless I have a personal connection to them, because I enjoy working with many of my friends and colleagues). And all of the people casting had seen me anyway, and I kept getting the same response over and over: we love your work, you’re brilliant, but we have no idea what to do with you because we can’t fit you into a “type”. So I decided I was done with that, because I know perfectly well what to do with myself and I don’t need anyone to tell me, thanks.

    I’m not trying to “break into the business” because I’m already there and I have been for 15 years. Once I realized that, it was simple. I work goddamn hard. I produce film and theater, I have toured shows all over the country, and been featured in festivals. I’ve written roles for myself and others and had roles written for me. I’ve gotten offered far more work as a result, because I’m actually *working* and not relying on others to give me jobs that I don’t want anyway. (Or maybe because I’m playing hard to get?) I work harder now than when I was “just” an actor. But multidisciplinary art is satisfying, and I love collaborating with non-film/theater types. I want to tell stories, not waste my time trying to impress people who are looking for something that I don’t have. It’s not that I will never audition again, but it’s not worth the time spent when I could be creating.

    The old wisdom of “keep auditioning until you get a break” isn’t effective for everyone, so I stopped paying attention to it. Maybe not auditioning makes me a poorer actor — though I certainly don’t think so — but it makes me a better artist, and that’s all I care about.

  1. Pingback: Acting, The New Conversation: Audience Building « Wondermania

  2. Pingback: Acting, The New Conversation: Directors as Audience « Wondermania

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